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5-0 Votes = We lose

posted Mar 4, 2015, 2:36 PM by Doug Roberts
If you've attended Village Board meetings recently, you've probably noticed something- the Trustees agree on everything!  Almost all the votes are 5-0, with very little, if any, discussion about any of the resolutions they are passing.  Sure, a lot of the resolutions they pass are procedural in nature, or are things that are not worth arguing over- of COURSE we should approve a wetlands permit application when the applicant is following all of the appropriate regulations, and of course we should accept the minutes from the Fire Department.  

But even the more controversial issues- most recently, it was the Peconic Landing Sewer Deal- don't register any questions or discussion amongst the Trustees before they vote.  

Greenport is an amazing place, but it's not without its challenges and differing viewpoints about how to solve them.  Why are the votes all 5-0?  

Add to this that The Board actively discourages public participation in their meetings. 

  • Sometimes documents for public hearings are not available on the website or on paper in the room before the meeting
  • The meetings take place during hours most folks are either finishing up work or having dinner with their families
  • The public is not allowed to comment at half of them, and at the others, we're given one public comment period after which there is sometimes a long response to our comments, during which sometimes the ugliness comes out with grumbles from the audience, bangs of the gavel, and threats to call the police while The Board sits there in silent support. 
I have a mantra about organizational decision-making that I use with all my clients: If you are all agreeing about everything, you're probably not thinking about it carefully enough.  Imagine if the delegates to the Continental Congress or Constitutional Convention all agreed on everything? We'd either have a loose confederation of sovereign states sparring with each other or we'd have an absolute dictatorship (yes, I was a Social Studies teacher and still am one at heart).  

We need new voices on this board.  We need new ideas. We need thoughtful positions based on research and precedent.  We need leaders who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in and make the case, before the public, for their way of solving the problem. Through respectful disagreement and healthy discourse, better solutions are developed.  If we are a functional board, conflict will lead to compromise.  

We need Trustees who will work hard to listen to your ideas and put them into action, and we need a Board that's willing to stay as late as it takes to do the job well.